Lymph node culture

Lymph node culture is a laboratory test done on a sample from a lymph node to identify germs that cause infection.

How is the Test Performed?

A sample is needed from a lymph node. This may be done using a needle to draw out fluid (aspiration) or during a lymph node biopsy.

The sample is sent to a laboratory where it is placed in a special dish and watched to see if bacteria, fungi, or viruses grow. This is called a culture. Sometimes special stains are also used to identify specific cells or microorganisms.

If needle aspiration does not provide a good enough sample, the entire lymph node may be removed and sent for culture and other testing.

Preparation for the Test

There is no special preparation needed for the lab test. For information on how to prepare for the lymph node sample, see lymph node biopsy.

How will the Test Feel?

For information on how the removal of the lymph node sample may feel, see lymph node biopsy.

Why is the Test Performed?

Your doctor may order this test if you have swollen glands and infection is suspected.

Normal Results for Lymph node culture

A normal result means there was no growth of microorganisms on the lab dish.

Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results are a sign of a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. Infections may include atypical mycobacterial infection.

Lymph node culture Risks

There is no risk to the patient associated with a lymph node culture. For risks related to the removal of the lymph node sample, see lymph node biopsy.

References

Armitage JO. Approach to the patient with lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds.Cecil Medicine. 24th ed.Philadelphia,PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 171.

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Review Date: 12/6/2011
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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